Episode 1

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Published on:

7th Oct 2020

Ep.001 - Blueprint for a Sustainable Future - Finn Woelm

Finn: Every single person who is trying to have a positive impact on the planet has contributed to this and this contributing to this. And it is due to the social entrepreneurs and the people working in nonprofit organizations, people like you, um, policy makers that have been able to make this progress.

Clement: This is the story about the entire world coming together to decide on 17 goals, a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The sustainable development goals or, "SDGs," are constantly monitored to make sure we continue to stay on track at the local, national, and global levels.

 One of the entities that monitor all this data, keeping tabs on all of us. Is the sustainable development solutions network. And one of the data scientists working there is Finn Woelm.

Finn: The consequence from this is not that progress is inevitable and we should [00:01:00] kind of lay back and just watch. But the conclusion from this should really be progress is possible.

So, we should absolutely do everything we can to work towards making this world even better. And working towards a world where there's no more extreme poverty.

Laura: Prior to joining the world of data science behind the sustainable development goals, Finn co-founded a startup of his own and worked with a number of organizations in the impact space, including the international panel on social progress.

As for his current mission. Finn's all about statistical analysis and data visualization at the sustainable development solutions network.

Clement: So, what does someone like Finn think about entrepreneurship? And what does he really think about what it will take to reach these global goals by 2030? This [00:02:00] episode brings you the inside scoop.

You’re listening to The Spaceship Podcast where we’ll be speaking to entrepreneurs and global thought leaders to highlight the theories and exercises we cover in The Spaceship Master Class. If you are set on solving some the world’s biggest problems, check out thespaceship.org

Now let’s give the mic to our guest.  

Laura: Alright. Hey, Finn! Welcome to the show.

Finn:  Hi, Laura. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

Laura: It's so good to have you. This is really fun because Finn is a friend of mine and he has been working with the sustainable development solutions network. So he's a data guy. He is avid in research, statistics, data visualization, and all in and around the sustainable development goals, the SDGs, which I just find super, super cool. So really wanted to have you on the show and introduce you to my co founder came off.

Clement: Hey Finn. Nice to have you on the show. 

Finn: Thank you. It's great to be here.

Laura:  I figured, um, I probably will do a worse job at introducing exactly what it [00:03:00] is that you do with the sustainable development solutions network.

So I figured we'd start off with you, maybe just telling us a bit more about what that's all about.

Finn:  Sure. So the sustainable development solutions network or short "SDSN". Is a think tank that was founded in 2012, under the guardianship of the United Nations to mobilize scientific knowledge for sustainable development and in particular for sustainable development goals for the agenda 2030 and the Paris climate agreement.

And I'm part of a team called the SDG index, which tracks and monitors progress towards achieving the SDGs for all 193 UN member States. So, what this means is that we look at a lot of different data and indicators and compile them into, in the end, a single metric to show for each [00:04:00] country, how far along they are to achieving the goals.

And importantly, also to highlight trends as well as gaps that still exist, so that countries can prioritize their efforts in the right places.

Laura: Wow. So you're, we're talking about a lot of big things here. You said agenda 2030. You said the SDGs, you're compiling information. I feel like there's so much to go on here and I have so many thoughts and so many questions for you, but actually I think it'd be really fun to start off with you and who you are as well, and what even brought you to this type of work.

Finn: Wow. Uh, that's a great question. A long journey with lots of different twists and turns led me to where I am today. And I think the journey is also not over yet. A big, big experience, a foundational experience for me was in my college years where I went to a university that was really focused on social entrepreneurship.

[00:05:00] And, um, was for young people who wanted to make a difference in the world. And it brought together people from all different corners of the world who are working on initiatives, projects, startups to have a positive difference in the world. And it was there that I was exposed really to, to a lot of the global challenges that we're facing, but also to a lot of the amazing work that is being done to, to change things for the better.

And so when I learned about the sustainable development goals, which are 17 objectives, that all countries in the world set for themselves and for the world in 2015. Goals like ending extreme poverty goals, like gender equality goals, fighting climate change, really ambitious agenda. I got very excited.

Because these goals really are, are a historic [00:06:00] milestone in the history of our human species. I think never before have we had, globally, a vision that all countries have agreed to and that all countries are pursuing for what we want the world to look like.

Clement: It's true. That's really exciting to finally see one global vision, agreed and pursued by all countries. When it comes to you, Finn, what drives you in life? What motivates you in the morning, what's your North Star?

Finn: Hmm. I see, I see. I have to say for me, it's really, it's really the agenda as a whole. That is super, incredibly inspiring. And that gets me excited and out of bed in the morning, I cannot emphasize this enough. It's really a tremendous milestone for all countries to come together and say, look, we all have maybe kind of different, slightly different values or different priorities, but still we are able to, you agree on [00:07:00] these 17 goals and these 169 sub-targets for what we want the world to look like. And that's incredible. I mean, if you look at the history of humankind over time, you know, all the Wars that we fought and so on. Just the fact that we have this common vision for the future that all these countries have agreed to, and that this vision was crafted in collaboration with lots of different stakeholders, organization, people from business and so on. It's it's super exciting.

Laura: Yeah. That's that's true. I actually can't remember a time where we were so focused altogether on a specific target or at least a vision for what the future could look like.

You know, I do remember we, we, we, weren't going to talk about this specifically, but just what you're saying and how you're saying it is bringing it to mind before the sustainable development goals were created. There were the millennium development goals. If I'm not wrong. If I do remember that-

Finn: That's correct.

Laura: I remember being in high school [00:08:00] and reading up on the millennial development goals. How are they different or are they different?

That is a great question. Yeah, you're very right. You remember that very much correctly. Before the SDGs, we had the MDGs, the millennium development goals, which were set in 2000 and a guided sort of global development from 2000 to 2015.

So until the SDGs were adopted, um, but they are very much different for the MDGs. They were really focused on, sort of, the poorer countries or the poorest countries and it wasn't the global agenda. They were actually, there was not much to do so to say for the Western world. And this is very different in the SDGs that state very clearly say that we all have work to do, right.

So it's not just some countries that have work to do. The quote, unquote, more developed countries actually do have a lot of work to do. One, of course, in the environmental dimension, because that is where countries like Germany, where I'm [00:09:00] from, really, uh, are causing a lot of problems, but also in making sure that Germany's actions, Germany's behavior, our consumption in Germany does not have negative impacts and does not prevent other countries from making progress on the SDGs.

Hmm. That's so interesting.

Finn: Yeah, it is. It is really fascinating.

Clement:  So do you see the SDGs changing in the near future or will they change only after we reach them?

Finn: The SDGs, for now, are, as they were in 2015, there are some, some aspects that we're still figuring out.

There are some targets where we're still figuring out how to measure them, right? So we have to 17 SDGs they're sort of the overarching framework, if you will. And then we have lots of different targets underneath each of these SDGs that get a lot more specific, right. Rather than just say, "Quality education," which is [00:10:00] kind of broad, the targets will, be a lot more concrete. What that actually means and what the actual targets are. Um, and so for significant number of those targets, we're still figuring out actually how to measure them, which is something that is very relevant to my work. Since we're really focused on data in the SDG index team.

So in that sense, there is some work that's still happening on the SDGs, but the overall framework is stable and has stayed the same since 2015. One big question of course, is what what's going to happen now with COVID, uh, the coronavirus pandemic, which is having severe negative impacts on a lot of the progress that has been happening over the last decades.

Right? So in terms of extreme poverty, It is having really severe negative impacts. And then of course, at some point it will be the question what happens after 2030, because the SDGs didn't mention this yet, but they were set in [00:11:00] 2015. And again, there were set with a 15 year timeframe in mind. So the idea was to achieve the goals by 2030, which has always been very ambitious.

And who knows if we will achieve the goals. But even if by some great stroke of luck, we are able to achieve them by 2030, which it doesn't look like right now. But if we're able to achieve them, even then there will be more work to be done, right? Like if we had extreme poverty, there are still many other forms of poverty, like relative poverty, for example, extreme poverty only, only covers people living on less than $1.90 a day.

So there will still be lots of other work to be done even after the SDGs are achieved.

Laura: Yeah. So we can't, we can't necessarily think of the SDGs as, you know, the route to paradise or the route to, you know, this, this perfect ecosystem and society either. It's kind of the bare minimum we need to do. Would you consider it maybe like the bare minimum we need to do to, to survive [00:12:00] and to thrive on this planet?

Finn: Oh, that's a great, great question too.

Um,

Laura: or maybe it's just an opinion, but

Finn: yeah, it does. It does get a little personal opinions. Maybe it's also a good moment to just say that this is where perhaps other people in the organization might have different points of view. And these are very much my opinions based on the work that I've done in the organization, but also also elsewhere.

Are they the bare minimum for us to survive? I mean, especially I think on the climate dimension, they are the bare minimum. This is something that I'm personally really worried about is, right, we have the coronavirus pandemic right now and it's really bad, but this is nothing compared to the climate crisis that is awaiting us if we continue business as usual

Clement: So all countries came together to define those SDGs... but, are they all equally involved or dedicated to follow them?

Finn: The short answer is [00:13:00] no countries are not equally dedicated to making progress on the SDGs. They did all sign them. All 193 UN member States signed onto them and co-developed them, but we are seeing very large differences in how serious they are being taken. I mean, I don't know if we want to go there, but, uh, especially in the United States, there's very little that is happening at the national level.

Right. So from the national government, we're seeing very little mention of the SDGs or work on the SDGs. We see much more on, on local levels. Certain organizations are more like a bottom up movement. And then we have other countries where the SDGs are really, really framing, the country's development and country strategy.

We had a webinar with groups from Indonesia recently. And there the SDGs are really part of the mainstream [00:14:00] conversation. People know about them. And they are sort of the guiding framework for the government.

Laura: Would you, would you say that the SDGs are really a language like they're... you mentioned them as a framework, do you feel like they're... the biggest pro to having the SDGs is for us to all be able to talk universally about these types of issues?

Finn: Yeah, I think that is, that is a really powerful aspect of the SDGs, just, um, that it's bringing together thousands of organizations and businesses and people and, and national and state level and local governments all under the same vision and same language pushing towards the same goal and speaking the same language.

Laura: So you mentioned, you know, when you talked about your first experience in college, going to a place where this was a, this was a main theme, this was a really interesting, or at least this [00:15:00] was something that was really talked about. Um, you mentioned that entrepreneurship was also part of that equation.

How do you see the connection between, I mean, everything that you're talking about is super interesting, but as somebody who's not in policy, I, you know, I'm not related to government in any way. How do I connect to the SDGs as an entrepreneur? Or how do we connect to them?

Finn:  Yeah, that is a fantastic question.

And that's something that has been a little bit of a challenge, I think, and that fortunately is, is being recognized and there are great organizations working on that, but when the SDGs were adopted, It was really, it was really with policymakers in mind and with countries in mind. Right? So the goals are, are really targeted towards countries.

If you are running a business and you look at all of the targets, they don't necessarily tell you what you should be doing as a business or how you can even go about [00:16:00] tracking and measuring your impact on those targets. So, so that there are, there are some groups that are, that are really working on that. UN global compact is, is one name that comes to mind, which is working with lots of businesses and translating the SDGs for business.

And what also comes to mind is, um, benefit corporation and organization. That is really about, really about businesses that want to have a positive impact. And they have developed something called the SDG action manager, which helps businesses do a baseline assessment of their impact on the SDGs, and then helps businesses track and identify where they're having positive and importantly, also negative impacts so that businesses can, can make sure they are making a positive contribution.

 And also. Make sure they're not kind of doing more harm than good.

Clement: Okay. And are you [00:17:00] saying that any businesses should be concerned with the SDGs or not? And if yes, um, how do those who have many more negative impact than a positive impact, how do they relate to the SDGs and how do they use those as a framework or language when it's not really their language?

Finn: Yeah, well, yeah, my personal belief is that all businesses should be concerned with the SDGs. I mean, at the very least business owners should be aware of, of the SDGs, because this is really our vision. You know, it's really prescribing what government should be doing, but the vision, and this is important, was not created just by policy makers. It was a really collaborative co-creative process between people from government, but also civil society, people from business and the general public, right? So division [00:18:00] is really broader than just a vision for policymakers. It's really a vision for where we all want to live as humankind and for our planet.

So since business is operating in our world as well, it's important to be aware of that vision, because that is where sometimes more slowly, sometimes more rapidly, but this is where we're headed in the long run. So, so for that reason alone, it's important to be aware of them. And then, I mean, businesses have a really important opportunity to promote the SDGs and, and, and make progress towards them. Just because I mean, businesses touch so many aspects of our lives and sometimes governments aren't making enough progress and it can be really slow to make progress at the government level. Decision making can be really slow. Businesses, have the opportunity to kind of trail blaze and lead the way!

Laura: I love that because that is, to [00:19:00] me, why I even started in the entrepreneurship space or, you know, why The Spaceship even came about was because there is this frustration in creating change when there's so much red tape and there's so much bureaucracy that you have to navigate, but. Businesses and especially startups have this opportunity right in front of them to be able to do really cool stuff to solve these really big problems.

So, yeah, I definitely agree with you on that front, but. A question I do have is, you know, at what point do you feel like it's important to start integrating these SDGs or start measuring yourself as a small business in terms of the progress you're making towards them? Do you feel like that's something that should come up right at the beginning, right when someone's, you know, starting their business? Or do you feel like this is something that you should almost use as a guiding light, but not necessarily benchmark yourself right at the get go. What's your opinion on that?

Finn:  That is [00:20:00] a, that's an excellent question. And you're asking an interesting person to answer it just because on a day to day basis, yeah, I don't work so much on business, but really more on the data monitoring, um, more aimed towards government.

Laura: That's true, I'm probably not asking the right person.

Finn:  I mean, yeah. Just, uh, make sure you also ask somebody else and don't just take my personal opinion as the answer, which I'm sure you're doing anyway.

 Just from my limited experience of entrepreneurship and, yeah, that journey, my two cents would be to not waste too much time going too deeply into, over analyzing too early. Right? Like the SDG action manager, for example, that I mentioned from B Corp, from the benefit corporation organization. I'm not too familiar with it personally, but.

I know that some other [00:21:00] assessments from the benefit corporation, they can be quite detailed. Right. So they, they ask you for like, what policies do you have for your employees in terms of day leave in terms of maternity leave, for example, or what policies or like, do you use recycled paper for your printer?

Right? It can be, it can get very specific. Um, and, often as a small startup where you are low, or if it's just a few employees. Can be, can be too detailed. And so it might not make sense to focus too much on all of these details at the start, but what you said this idea of using them as a, as a guiding framework, overarching vision makes a lot of sense.

And the UN global compact, for example, they, they have 10 principles around human rights, labor environment, and anticorruption which, so, so then it's only just 10. [00:22:00] And so this idea of setting a few core principles as you start your business, I think can be really useful.

Laura: So, so I want to dive a little bit deeper on this idea of business and the SDGs.

And I have a specific thought in mind. So Clement and I were talking about the fact that, you know, we live in this globalized world and when you're, let's say you're a tee shirt company and you're producing organic cotton t-shirts and you're producing them in India, but you're selling the shirts around Europe.

Let's say. And so the footprint of these, the production of these t-shirts, even though, you know, you've, you've gone through the effort to find an organic cotton producer. The footprint is ultimately affecting the ecosystem in India, much more than the country where the shirts will be purchased from and worn.

Right? So all the countries in Europe don't really, they're not going to be feeling the effects of the production of these shirts. So. If the production is adding to the overall, let's say the carbon footprint of India, [00:23:00] who's actually responsible, you know, is, is it, is it the business itself that should be taking to account, you know, all of the effects of their business, on environment, on, on the humans and that supply chain and like who should actually mitigate this footprint?

I was just wondering if you had any thoughts around that, because as we're talking about, you know, The role of business and the sustainable development goals. I find it gets a little bit complicated because we produce all over the world and we consume all over the world. And they're not necessarily in the same places.

Finn: Yeah, absolutely. This topic that you're mentioning this topic around, having supply chains all over the world and, and consuming something in a different country than it was produced in. It's actually a very timely topic, a very hot topic in this field. We refer to this as spillover effects or sometimes as trans-boundary impacts.

And like you said, it's really, it's really [00:24:00] about what effects does my consumption in Germany or Canada have on other countries. Both positive and negative. Right? So the example you gave around, I dunno, let's say a piece of clothing being produced in India or Bangladesh. And if there are carbon emissions associated with that, those carbon emissions are attributed to, to India or Bangladesh, even though the final consumption is happening perhaps in Canada or Germany.

And so one issue that we're seeing is that countries are sometimes outsourcing their problems. Right. So instead of reducing the CO2 emissions nationally, that Germany's responsible for, if we just shift the production to somewhere else, then suddenly the CO2 emissions from Germany are going down, even though we're still consuming exactly the same.

And the net amount of CO2 that is being put into the air is still the same. And so this obviously [00:25:00] is not acceptable. We can't achieve the SDGs by outsourcing our problems to other countries. And at the moment, this is a topic that is getting more and more interest, fortunately, because it really needs to get more interest.

For example, the European Union is doing a lot of work to, to become more aware of these effects to measure them, which is quite difficult scientifically, but there are some leading researchers, um, all around the world that are working on tracking that and making it measurable. Yeah. I mean, a particular challenge for, for businesses that have supply chains that touch many different countries.

And then the question of responsibility that you mentioned is also a very tough one to answer. Unfortunately, I think what sometimes happens is that everybody will push responsibility on somebody else, right? Like sometimes you see this -- companies will push the responsibility to the subcontractor.

The end consumer will push the responsibility to [00:26:00] the company. Maybe saying, "look, the company is responsible for making sure it's sustainable. I as a consumer, don't have the time or capacity to research all the purchases I make." Sometimes the companies will also push it on the government and say that in order to be competitive and to be able to compete with other businesses, what they would need is that the government step up and set kind of the same standard for everybody to make sure it's a level playing ground because they wouldn't be able to compete if just one company went ahead and produced fairly and ethically and sustainably, but all the other ones didn't.

And then government, too. I mean, they can also push responsibility onto public saying that if the public doesn't become more vocal and demanding then they can't do anything, or they'll push it to the companies and say, the companies are lobbying in a certain way. So, this question of who's responsible can... you can always find somebody else, I feel.

Laura: It's like a blame game in the end.

Finn: It is a blame game sometimes. Yeah. And that is not what should be [00:27:00] happening. And probably not what people who are excited about impact startups and impact businesses will do. And we need more of that. We need more people, organizations, businesses, policy makers, who stop the blame game and just take responsibility and do it.

Laura: So what you're saying, so just in a nutshell, just so I can wrap up this thought is that if you are producing somewhere else in the world, the carbon emissions or other types of effects that your business might be having, that should technically fall under your responsibility. If you know, in an optimal sense, that should really be that business' responsibility, because the statistics that you're looking at when it shows that a country like Bangladesh has a lot more emissions than a country, like anywhere else. Um, I don't know, uh, the Netherlands, it's not necessarily their " fault" because we are producing all over the world.

Is that, in a nutshell, the bottom line?

[00:28:00] Finn: Yeah.

Laura: Got it.

Finn: You got it.

Clement:  For countries like Germany, what actions do countries or maybe especially Germany take to avoid the companies to find suppliers outside the country to not be responsible for this?

And do you see maybe carbon offsetting - either by the company or by the countries - to be one solution to finally have the person who sells the product take responsibility and offset the entire footprint of a product.

Finn:  Hmm. That's a great point. Yeah. Um, that, that is actually a really good aspect that we haven't mentioned yet, is that of course, the take away from this whole discussion on spillovers, shouldn't be that we stop international trade and that we stop having international supply chains and so on. I mean, the goal is not for [00:29:00] Germany to produce everything nationally. And that's important because the takeaway from this should not be that what we need is more nationalism and less international collaboration and trade.

But instead, what should be happening is that 1) Companies work on mitigating the negative impacts that their supply chains are having on other countries. Right? So for example, working with their subcontractors to make sure that people are being paid a fair wage or making sure that, you know, certain toxic chemicals are not being released into rivers and waterways.

And so. It's it's really about not, not turning away and kind of just leaving it up to the subcontractors or the people that the companies work with, but asking them tough questions and being willing to put money [00:30:00] down, being willing, perhaps sometimes to sacrifice a little bit of profitability for the principles and for the right thing.

Laura: So when you talk about asking the tough questions, do you consider, you mentioned at some point, you know, the SDGs are not just to map out what it is that you're doing right or where you would like to go with the company or your project, but also a way to map out where you might be lacking or where you might actually be taking away from the progress.

So is part of asking the tough questions, like laying out where you might not be, um, helping the situation?

Finn: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, there are lots of aspects where businesses, if they are not paying attention, might, perhaps not reversing, but definitely hindering progress. Right. I'm thinking about aspects of, of paying people a fair wage or gender equality, for example.

So businesses absolutely [00:31:00] need to look comprehensively at what they're doing. And this is something that we are seeing, unfortunately is that there are some businesses that are just mapping their old activities that after they have been doing, I mean, even before the SDGs were adopted and just mapping the positive aspects to some of the SDGs and then saying, look, this is where we're having a positive impact.

I mean that obviously it doesn't, that's not how it's meant to be like you can't be, I don't know. Um, Extracting coal from the ground and having lots of carbon emissions, but then in your sustainability report, just focus on this one activity that you do to, I don't know, build a local school somewhere.

Laura:   (sarcastic) Wait, you mean you can't offset all of the terrible things you're doing with coal mining with building schools? I thought it neutralized it.

Finn: Ah, well, no, unfortunately it doesn't [00:32:00] quite.

Laura:  I'm so disappointed.

Clement: I guess you can't pull the five star rating only and keep the one star for later or hide the bad things and just showcase the good things that you do.

Finn: Yeah.

Clement: And do you see the SDGs translating to a kind of certification then, or a way that anything we do anything we sell - service or goods - could be rated by all the SDGs?

Finn: Yeah. I mean, this is where I think, for example, this benefit corporation that I've mentioned before. It's doing really incredible work because they have an assessment that companies can do that is quite comprehensive and has quite high standards.

That certifies companies, if they are meeting the threshold for being what is called a benefit corporation, right? So a corporation that is having a positive impact on the planet and they have really done a great job [00:33:00] in promoting that certification. And there are several hundreds, perhaps several thousand companies in the world that have undergone this certification.

And you sometimes see it in stores on products. So that was really fantastic. And another thing that they have done that I am a big fan of, is that they are actually, they have worked with countries to change legislation. So that, that there's actually a new type of company that can be registered. That is not a traditional company that has to pursue the maximization of profits above all else.

But it is a type of company that has, um, certain principles or certain objectives that they're pursuing. And that they are pursuing imbalanced to, to pursuing profits. Right? So they have in many countries introduced a new form of, of company. And that's really, it's been impactful for example, in the United States.

There's just an example. I know. Well, because that's where I did my studies. [00:34:00] Before, with a so-called C corporation, you actually are legally obligated to maximize your profits for your shareholders. Otherwise you could be sued by your shareholders. And so sometimes you have scenarios where being more environmentally friendly or paying a fair wage, for example, could be in conflict with maximizing the profits.

And in those cases, so far, It was not easy to do the right thing because they had this legal obligation to maximize profits. And now in many states in the United States, there is this so-called B Corp, a type of legal entity that corporations can become that makes their legal obligation to pursue the objectives, which could be environmental or social, um, and not to pursue profits above all else.

Laura: This is great. I think we're going to definitely need to have someone from B Corp or B corporation on our podcast at some point.

Finn: That'd be great.

Laura: It's inevitable now. Before we get to [00:35:00] like the end of this conversation, I do want to just touch upon one thing, which is the fact that you know, what you work on and the data that you look at, you know, through the sustainable development solutions network, it does seem like so much of that data must be interconnected to so many different SDGs.

 In the Spaceship course, we talk about interconnectivity as being a really important pillar in, you know, when you're thinking of the SDGs, because you can't just focus on one, right? You can't just, you can't just focus on solving for. Alleviating hunger and not focus on education. You know, so many of them are just, they rely on each other.

So my question is, I guess, in your role, and as you sift through all this data to figure out whether or not we're advancing, whether or not we're making progress, Have you found that, that we are making progress in certain areas because there are certain things that are interconnected and it seems like, you know, we are, we are [00:36:00] shifting the needle in some ways, or would you say there are, you know, some surprising data that's coming out when it comes to the effect we're having on the SDGs in a positive way?

Finn: Yes. So there are several parts to this question. Um, one is that we're not on track currently to achieve the SDGs by 2030, we're -

Laura:  That's the bottom line. We're not on track?

Finn: We are not on track. We're not making enough progress to achieve the SDGs by 2030. But that being said, and this is the thing that comes out very clear across all our data.

And that I think is so important to highlight because when we look at the world and the news, sometimes it seems like it's just getting worse and worse. And, and, and there's just no point in even trying, because there's no chance to, to improve the world anyway... it's just important to highlight that that is not the case.

There [00:37:00] has been tremendous progress over the last decades on, on a range of really important, I mean, across almost all the different aspects that are important to sustainable development, right? Like in terms of extreme poverty. For example, I just looked at it before this podcast in 1990, about 40% of the world population was living in extreme poverty.

So on less than $1.90 a day. And then since then in the last 30 years now, that number has gone down to 15% and I mean, that's, that's amazing. Oh, over 30 years there's a decrease of 25% of extreme poverty from 1.9 billion people to 730 million. And so that is just one example of this idea that sometimes exists in the mainstream.

This idea of like, you know, it's hopeless anyway, we can't make progress, and nothing ever gets better...sort of, kind of the things we like to tell ourselves, because it's a, in a way, it's a convenient excuse for inaction, but it's really not true. [00:38:00] It's I mean, another example is his life expectancy. I don't know.

Do you know what the global average life expectancy is at the moment?

Laura: Um, Clement, do you have any idea?

Clement: Maybe 47?

Laura: Oh, I was going to give like, maybe. 70. I have no idea. I'm shooting in the dark.

Finn: Yeah, you're very, yes, it is. Um, it's just about 70, I think it's about 70.6 is, um, the global average life expectancy.

Laura: Wow. I had no idea actually.

Finn: Yeah, but no, you did. Very good guess. And that's, I mean, that's really amazing. A lot of people still think that it is much lower, like in the forties, perhaps... where it was! It was in the forties. About 50, 60 years ago or so. And that kind of idea still exists now, but I mean, it's, the progress has really been amazing.

And not only has the global average gone up by 30 or so years, it has also become much more equal. [00:39:00] Right. So the distribution before was much wider. Between more developed and less developed countries. And now it has become much more equal and the same story. I mean, you see it across the board. I mean like clean water, for example, that is, something that really comes out clearly from our data.

And that to me is such an important story that we should highlight again and again, is that progress is absolutely possible. And we have been making a lot of it and every single person who is trying to have a positive impact on the planet has contributed to this and is contributing to this. And it is due to the social entrepreneurs and the people working in nonprofit organizations, people like you, um, policy makers that have been able to make this progress.

Laura: Wow, that was, um, I was going to try to end on a positive note, but you just took it away. You did it without even me prompting.

Finn: Well, yeah, I mean, I mean, to me, that's just that that's just really, the inspiring part is, is when, when [00:40:00] we, when we look at it, that progress is absolutely possible. And I, I say this, not because...the consequence from this is not that progress is inevitable and we should kind of lay back and just watch.

But the conclusion from this should really be progress as possible. So we should absolutely do everything we can to work towards making this world even better and working towards a world where there's no more extreme poverty, that's a goal that we can absolutely achieve in our lifetime. It will be the first time in history that there will be no extreme poverty on this planet.

And. Yeah, we should absolutely do what's in our mind to work towards a more equitable and fair and environmentally friendly world.

Clement: That's actually super exciting and motivating honestly, as an entrepreneur and, and, um, maybe it's not enough said that maybe we are not on track, but we have made like great progress to kind of [00:41:00] motivate people from the good results that we have.

And push the effort to go in that direction.

Finn: Absolutely. And it's super exciting that you're doing this, that you are working with social entrepreneurs and to the social entrepreneurs, listening to this, thank you for spending your time and energy and money, and we really need your good ideas. There's still a lot of work to be done, and we need people like you to... to make it happen.

Clement: Thanks. And speaking about ideas, we have this kind of wild idea question that we would like to ask you. Um, it's not so serious, but it's to kind of close this amazing conversation.

Finn:  Sounds great.

Clement:  So if there was an 18th SDG, what would it be in your opinion?

Finn: Hmm, well, a little known fact is that there's actually one overarching principle across all 17 SDGs. [00:42:00] That could be a little bit considered like an 18th SDG, which is this idea of leaving no one behind.

Which is all about making sure that all people are being taken along the path towards this better world, don't leave anybody behind. And that we make sure that even the most marginalized groups benefit from the progress that we make and to make sure because there are going - there're going to be some disruptions, right?

As we make this transition toward an environmentally friendly world, certain businesses, certain sectors aren't going to exist anymore. And. We need to make sure that people that are affected by these disruptions are not being left behind and that we bring them along towards this better world.

Laura:  Well, my mind is blown.

I did not realize there was an 18th SDG. When we were going to ask that question, I was like, I wonder, I wonder what he's going to come up with, but you actually had an answer, which is, which is crazy. I'm walking away from this learning this new thing.

Finn: Well, yes, I made it so officially it's not the 18th [00:43:00] SDG, but it's just, it's an overarching principle that exists.

Laura: It sounds pretty good. It probably should be included as the 18th. If you have any clout with Ben Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, you should maybe whisper in his ear and tell him to include the 18th.

Finn:  I'll keep that in mind

Clement: Laura, We probably should include it in our framework.

Laura: Actually, that's a great idea. We will include it in our framework.

Finn:  That's awesome.

Clement:  And you were saying that we are not on track. Do we have a plan B?

Finn: Plan B if we don't achieve the STGs?

Clement:  Yeah, exactly. If we don't reach the goal by 2030,

Finn: Not yet. I mean, this is my personal opinion. Very much. But I think we'll probably not achieve all of the SDGs by 2030. And that's okay.

You know, the SDGs are extremely ambitious. Like when we, when we came up with them, it was really about defining a very, very ambitious vision for where we want to [00:44:00] go. That is good because if we weren't ambitious, then we probably would have even more work to do, right. We need to set high ambitions so that at least we get some action towards them.

So what we'll need to do as we get closer to 2030 is just to look at the next, perhaps again, 15 years and maybe revisit our goals and reevaluate and redo this process of stakeholder engagement. Our vision for a better world might slightly change. We might become more ambitious in some areas, we might introduce new dimensions that we didn't even consider in the last round.

So that is something that there is no plan B right now, but as we get closer to 2030, we will need to think about what's next. Where do we go from here?

Clement: Okay, nice. And if we want to go faster, and definitely reach the SDGs by 2030, or even earlier, maybe [00:45:00] 2025. What would be a wild idea to reach earlier?

Finn: Earlier than 2030? Um...

Laura: Poor Finn. He's trying to convince us that it's really not even going to happen by 2030, but if there was something crazy, like, if, I don't know...

Finn:  I love your, I love your ambition. That is exactly what we should be striving for. And I mean, there's the question of you know, what's, what's perhaps realistic.

Um, and, but I mean, it's, yes, it's important to dream and to, to, to, to shoot for the stars to land on the moon or something like this. The crazy idea. I mean, if I could magically wave a wand and, and just do something it would be to, to, to create a world without military. To take out one, all the money that is currently invested into military equipment and the military, and use that to promote the [00:46:00] social causes, to promote the, the fight against poverty. To promote the really important environmental transitions that we have to make.

And that would also stop one of the most harmful things that we can do for progress, which is to fight each other as, as countries in, in a, in a physical way, right? Like, wars are one of the least useful ways for advancing this agenda.

So taking the money out of the military and removing the military and having peace on this planet and using that money that is freed up by having peace to what's advancing the social and environmental causes. That would be, it would be my crazy idea for making really significant progress.

Clement: Wow. That's super inspiring.

Laura: Yeah.

Clement: Thanks a lot for this.

Laura: Thank you so much. I was I'm I'm blown away. I was sure. You know, it's, it's, it's so important that we keep that positivity or at least that [00:47:00] outlook alive. And so, while, I don't know where we'll find you that magic wand, I feel confident in the fact that there are enough humans on this planet who, who care about that type of progress.

So thank you so much for spending your time with us and chatting through all of these concepts from spillover effects to the importance of the SDGs and how they relate to business and policy. It was so interesting and inspiring. So I really, really, we both really appreciate you having spent this last hour with us.

Finn:  It was an absolute pleasure.

Like I said, you are doing really amazing work and we really need every single person who has the passion and who has good ideas to make this happen.

Laura: And with that, we are over in out. So stay inspired and we can't wait to show you all of the brilliance that will come from the entrepreneurship ventures that are coming [00:48:00] out of The Spaceship.

Clement: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Finn! Thanks for being here and telling us all those great stories and motivating us to work harder to solve those problems.

Finn:  Well, I'm glad to hear that it was useful and valuable, and that was really fun having this conversation with you.

Laura: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Spaceship Podcast, all part of the wider Spaceship impact entrepreneurship program. Now, if you're curious to learn more or you're thinking about solving big problems through business, be sure to check out thespaceship.org. See you next time.

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The Spaceship Podcast
Giving the mic to Impact Entrepreneurs Globally!
The Spaceship Podcast is part of an Impact Entrepreneurship Masterclass called The Spaceship. We're enabling status quo rebels to tackle our world's toughest problems through business. This podcast is where we bring the theory to life by featuring thought leaders and impact entrepreneurs from around the world.
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